COVID Safe contact tracing app is now available – here’s everything you need to know
The Australian Government COVID Safe app is now available to download and adheres to strict privacy controls that will be protected by new legislation that will make misuse of the data an offence that could result in five years imprisonment.
The COVID Safe contact tracing app is now available to download on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
And it also comes with an assurance that any data generated by the app is encrypted and stored on your smartphone that are protected by both technical and legal barriers.
Any data is also deleted every 21 days.
The app is voluntary and can be deleted at any time.
But naturally the more people who download the app the better it will work.
The COVID Safe app meets all 19 privacy recommendations which were compiled by independent law firm after it wrote a 100 page assessment ahead of the app’s completion.
In fact, the government will legislate a change to the Biosecurity Act that will prohibit access to the data generated by the app outside the relevant state and territory health officials who have been authorised by the user to access the data base.
This means no government or Commonwealth official will have any access to the data and non-compliance of this directive will result in up to five years in jail.
This legislation also bans any secondary use of the COVID Safe data.
Under normal circumstances, submissions of data can be accessed in a secondary way either to provide to law enforcement, to assist in the defence of a crime, if it is requested under warrant or if subpoenaed by the court.
All of these secondary data uses will be prohibited by law to access the COVID Safe app’s data.
And it also cannot and will not be used for any other purpose including detecting large social gatherings that go against current social distancing laws.
The app is designed to give health workers in each state a territory a clearer picture of the spread of coronavirus.
The issue so far has been compiling an accurate contact list manually when someone tests positive COVID-19.
Here’s how the COVID Safe app will work.
– Users will download the app from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store – search for COVID Safe.
– Once downloaded, users will be asked to agree to a consent form that will allow collect your registered details to be used for contact tracing by health official and to collect the contact information gathered from other COVID-19 app users.
– Then you are asked to supply four pieces of information: full name, mobile number, age and postcode. Once you submit your number you will be sent a code by SMS to verify your registration. Registrations will commence from 6pm Sunday April 26.
– Each person will be assigned a unique identifier that will only reside on your phone. No one can access the encrypted list of contacts on their smartphone. It can only be accessed, with your consent, by health officials in your state if you test positive to coronavirus.
– The app uses the Bluetooth on your smartphone to scan and detect anyone else (who is also running the app) within 1.5m.
– The app scans once every minute and exchanges unique identifiers within that 1.5m range.
– If that same unique identifier is detected within range 15 consecutive times (that’s 15 minutes) it will be stored in your database.
– In the event you need to be contacted after testing positive or being in contact with someone who tests positive, you will be asked to complete a two-factor authentication (like authorising a new bank transfer) before you are asked to consent to upload the data in the app.
The COVID Safe app will work on both Android smartphones and iPhones and will also still work on smartphones that are a few years old.
The app needs to be running all the time on your phone and will require that you keep notifications on so it keeps working in the background.
COVID Safe will not use any GPS or location data whatsoever.
And even though the app is using Bluetooth it will not interfere with regular uses of Bluetooth like pairing and using headphones and wearables.
One issue that could arise is a battery saving feature of some smartphones may flag the COVID Safe app because it is constantly running in the background.
It might be necessary to disable these battery saving features or ignore then to keep the COVID Safe app running in the background.
The app will use less than 1MB of data per day and does not need a connection to the cellular network or the internet to work.
The government also specified that conditionality will also be prohibited – in other words no one can be prejudiced or given preferential treatment whether they are running or not running the app.
Download the app for Android and iPhone here.